SportStars Magazine

Hit Squad

Led By A Pair Of Legitimate Sluggers, Bella Vista Softball Is Literally Going To Take Its Best Swing At A Championship •

Story and Photos by IKE DODSON

Speak softly and carry a big stick. It’s the unspoken motto of the Bella Vista-Fair Oaks softball team, one of the best hitting squads in Northern California.

The Broncos also sport one of the top power-hitting duos in the state.

In their first 10 games, senior Katelyn Snow and junior Kelsey Hall combined for eight home runs, two grand slams, four triples, 26 RBIs and 27 runs scored.

Snow, pictured above, is a Sacramento State signee sporting a .520 batting average through 10 games. Hall, once poised to play at Oregon before decommitting, is hitting an even .500.

If not for tournament games played without an outfield fence, or a mishap when one of them failed to touch third base on an expected grand slam, coach Jim Bennett estimates the duo would be responsible for at least 11 four-baggers.

 

Kristina Cavalli delivers a pitch during a March 30 game against Laguna Creek-Elk Grove.

“They are both tearing it up,” Bennett said. “They are much more aggressive, but disciplined this year.

“It wasn’t until I was entering stats on their last game that I even realized how good they were hitting.”

It’s rare that Bella Vista’s aptitude for stick-swinging surprises Bennett.

On March 30, he calmly watched his team get behind 5-1 against Laguna Creek in the top of the third inning, as the Cardinals shelled his No. 3 pitcher. After giving her a chance to escape trouble, Bennett called in his ace — returning first-team All-Capital Valley Conference arm Kristina Cavalli — and watched his offense go to work.

Cavalli stopped the bleeding with movement and speed to the mitt. Meanwhile the Bella Vista lineup etched up the scorebook with 14 unanswered runs to force a shortened game via the 10-run mercy rule.

“This year we are doing a good job of not panicking when we are down,” Bennett said.

“We just aren’t worried,” Snow said. “We encourage each other a lot, pump each other up and have a lot of confidence in ourselves.”

Bella Vista (8-3) is hitting over .420 as a team, despite injuries. Confidence comes easy with those numbers.

The squad’s defeats came against Casa Roble-Orangevale (10-2), Rodriguez-Fairfield (9-3) and Roseville (9-3-1). Not bad considering the team hasn’t legged out its full potential, considering Cavalli — a 2.51 ERA ace last year — has struggled to a 5.03 ERA in 2018.

Broncos leadoff hitter Maia Rader is committed to Oregon State.

But Bella Vista’s hitting has been downright stellar, and bash sisters Hall and Snow are slugging better than any duo in the section — outside of undefeated Oakdale’s Grace Green (six home runs, three triples, 20 RBIs) and Lexi Webb (five home runs, four triples, 21 RBIs).

Hall and Snow are aided by the ultimate table-setters.

Leadoff Maia Rader, a senior Oregon State commit, has a staggering .647 on-base percentage. In her first nine games she has 17 runs, 15 hits, six RBIs, six stolen bases, three doubles and two triples in her first nine games.

“I just tell myself to not think so much, and take things one hit, one run at a time,” Rader said. “My girls will back me up, and I back them up as well.”

No. 2 in the order, national travel-ball sensation Serena Shine, a freshman, leads the Broncos in hits (22) and batting average (.647). She’s one of only six freshmen in California to hit over .600 in at least 30 at-bats. She’s been caught stealing just once in nine attempts.

“I know we have a good core group of girls, that we have a good team, and have potential,” Bennett said. “Defensively we are pretty strong, but pitching is my worrisome part.

Serena Shine is considered one of the top freshmen in the state.

“Our No. 1 pitcher has had two bad outings, and some good performances, and I’m not sure which pitcher I am going to get.”

Bella Vista has a short window to get right. A showdown with the reigning CVC champs and Sac-Joaquin Section Div. II runner-up, Del Campo-Fair Oaks (5-1), looms April 10. The Broncos also have back-to-back conference games against Antelope and Cosumnes Oaks-Elk Grove (a combined 7-5-1) April 3-4, before opening the highly touted NorCal Classic in Tracy a day later. Bella Vista has a great shot at winning the Gold bracket, which also includes Utah’s 5-1 Bingham (the returning Class 5A state runner-up), 10-1 Dos Palos (Central Section Div. IV semifinalist), 6-1 Salinas, 9-1 Ripon (SJS Div. V semifinalist), 4-2 Concord (North Coast Section Div. II champion), 7-1 Pinole Valley and 10-2-1 Pitman-Turlock.

Bella Vista opens the tournament against 10-0 Calaveras, the returning SJS Div. IV runner-up.

The Broncos were the No. 9 seed in last year’s SJS Div. II bracket, but fell 6-0 to eventual tournament champion, Napa, in the opening round.

Incredibly, eventual champions thwarted Bella Vista’s postseasons runs each of the last four seasons. The Broncos were runner-up to Rocklin in 2016. Bella Vista was also Div. I runner-ups in the second and third section title games (1977, 1978) in SJS history. The Broncos have never won a blue banner.

If Cavalli finds her way, and the team keeps slugging, that could all change.

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